Dr.J. on Running


Title IX

At Age 30

Published March 25, 2002 in The Syracuse Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Women's History Month is the time of year when colleges declare open season on healthy athletic programs in the name of gender equality. Last week, the news wires carried the obituaries of three more track programs. Tulane University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Bowling Green University announced plans to do away with track and field.

U-Mass-Amherst plans to cut seven sports from its athletic lineup to save a million dollars. In addition to men's indoor track and field, the sun will set on women's volleyball, men's and women's water polo, men's and women's gymnastics, and men's tennis.

At Bowling Green, men's tennis, swimming and indoor and outdoor track and field will be dropped in the fall. The move will cut 16 scholarships and save $360,000 per year to bring the school in compliance with Title IX. The decision leaves the school with eight men's sports and 11 women's sports.

"Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972" is the government's idea of legislating equality between the sexes. It states that "no person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid."

The government applies a three-part test to determine an institution's compliance with Title IX. "Substantial Proportionality" requires that participation opportunities for men and women be substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments.

"History and Continuing Practice" requires an institution to show a history and continuing practice of program expansion that is responsive to the developing interests and abilities of women. "Effectively Accommodating Interests and Abilities" requires an institution to meet the interests and abilities of its women even where there are disproportionately fewer women than men participating in sports.

Proportional participation, rather than athletic scholarships, is the main issue with Title IX. Schools harboring football programs start with a deficit of well over one hundred opportunities, which requires adding half-a-dozen women's sports, or eliminating as many men's sports. Men's aerobic sports of cross country, track and field, and swimming, as well as gymnastics and wrestling, have taken the brunt of the cuts in many colleges, dumbing the average academic performance of student athletes and bringing a new meaning to retention.

Last January, the National Wrestling Coaches Association filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Department of Education for the way it interprets and enforces Title IX. The lawsuit accuses the Department of Education of "improper rulemaking and enforcement, leading to the arbitrary elimination of hundreds of athletic programs at schools across the country."

As we hold our breath for similar action on behalf of runners, I see a unique opportunity for local track clubs to fill the void. Liberated from NCAA tyranny and government meddling, athletes may finally find friendly trails and tracks to achieve their true potential.

© 2002 The Post-Standard.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Syracuse Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at jabbour@i2sports.com.